Heat related illness


Heat related illness occurs as a result of excessive heat. Even a short period of exposure to very high heat can lead to serious problems. Heat waves that occur during summer cause very high rise in the temperature, which can last for days to weeks. This high temperature puts people at risk of developing heat associated ailments.

Increase in the body temperature can be of two types hyperthermia and fever. The difference between the two is that in fever there is a change in the body’s temperature set point, where as in hyperthermia the temperature set point in the body does not change.
Hyperthermia or overheating of the body occurs when the body absorbs or produces more heat than it can dissipate. The body’s normal temperature regulating system is unable to effectively lower the temperature. Normally at high temperatures the body cools it self through evaporation of sweat. However , with high temperatures and very high humidity this cooling mechanism becomes less effective. With the rise in humidity the sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from dissipating heat quickly. This coupled with inadequate fluid intake, excessive loss of fluid and electrolyte causes dehydration and can affect the brain and other vital organs.
The normal body temperature is between 36.5 ‘C (97.7’F) to 37.5’C(99.5’F). Hyperthermia is any temperature more than 37.5’C(99.5’F).
Heat related illnesses range from non fatal heat cramps and heat exhaustion to the very serious and possibly fatal heat stroke.Heat cramps are the earliest symptom to occur. If not taken care of may lead to heat exhaustion or stroke. A person suffering with heat exhaustion will have heavy sweating, weakness, cold, pale and calmly skin, fast weak pulse, nausea , vomiting or fainting.
Heat exhaustion if not properly taken care of may lead to heat stroke, in which the body’s temperature rapidly rises to 104 ‘f (40’C). Heat stroke is a medical emergency. Patient will have very high body temperature hot, red and dry skin, rapid and strong pulse, possible unconsciousness. exertional heat stroke occurs in people who undertake very high strenuous exercises in the hot weather. nonexertional heat strokes occurs in the elderly children and chronically ill patients.
Elderly people, infants, children, obese, out door workers , bed bound, and those with chronic medical conditions are at increased risk of developing heat related problems.
Whenever suspected of having a heat related illness it is ideal to stop all ongoing activity and move to a cool place preferably indoors. Lie down and loosen all clothing, drink water or electrolyte rich fluids like ORS or Sports drinks. It is advisable to take cool shower or bath to bring down temperature to normal.
If vomiting or persistent nausea is present or if the person becomes unresponsive then, seek medical attention quickly.
A number of precautions can be taken to prevent heat related illness like wearing loose fitting, lightweight, light coloured clothing, avoid going outdoors at peak hours of rise in temperature, cover head with a hat or cap, drink plenty of fluids. Avoid exercise or any strenuous activity in hot weather. As far as possible keep children and elderly people indoors. Do not leave children alone in a parked car. Taking breaks and finding a cooler spot to rest even for a while will help to regulate body temperature. It is wise to check the weather forecast before steeping out.

Qualification : MBBS, MD
Designation : Senior Consultant
Deprtment : Internal Medicine



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *